Life involves a lot of waiting. We are often ready for the next thing before its time. I remember spending much of my childhood wanting to be older. Many students want to be finished with school. Many single people want to be in a relationship. Many childless people want to be parents. Many working people want to be retired. Many older or terminally ill people want to be in heaven. Regardless of our situation, we are probably waiting for something.
While change is a natural part of life, we can be tricked into believing the “next thing” will bring us far more life. If reaching the next thing becomes our central pursuit in life, we will suffer negative consequences. We will most likely ignore warning signs of problems along the path we are traveling. We may become numb or blind to the negative effects of our choices. We will miss out on gifts and blessings God wants to give us. Discontentedness with ourselves, God, and our lives can also rob us of far more life. God’s Word tells us:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)
He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, AMP)
God’s timing is perfect — and worth waiting for. But when we are told “wait” without further instruction, it is often frustrating. We are wired to move forward, to keep growing, changing, experiencing and learning. Constant reminders of what we cannot do or have makes us focus on that even more. It makes waiting harder.
So what should we focus on while we wait? How do we find far more life where we are? These translations of Proverbs 4:23 give us several perspectives to consider:
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (AMP)
More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it. (CEB)
Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences. (CJB)
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (GNT)
Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life. (VOICE)
The key to waiting well is controlling what we allow to linger in our heart and mind. What we value most — what our thoughts dwell on — determines our actions. When we are focused on getting something, temptation to do whatever is needed to get it is strong. If we instead focus on loving and obeying God, we find far more life as we wait for His plan and timing.
Some people claim obeying God will get us what we want; that is a backwards, selfish perspective. A sincere and pure heart is not making deals with God and performing good deeds to earn what we want. Far more life is motivated to obey out of love for God and a desire to honor Him. While good circumstances may come out of that obedience, those are bonuses rather than the goal. Far more life trusts that God is for us, that He is working for our good, and that His gifts — whatever He has hand-selected to bless us — are worth waiting for.
I think of this commonly misinterpreted verse:
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4, HCSB)
Many read this as saying, “cheerfully obey God and you will get what you want”. But the verse really communicates that when we make God the center of our life, our desires will change to match His. We will be satisfied and content with what He provides because that has become what we want. I can think of many times I had to wait: for friendship; for a church family; for employment; for a husband; for children; for health; for answers to prayers. In each situation, God has refined my desires to make them holier and more satisfying than what I originally wanted. He has surprised me, blessed me, and proven that His plan was worth the wait. And when it came to pass, I was thrilled with what He provided!
This topic brings to mind a worship song that was popular several years ago. It speaks of the challenges of waiting for God and how we can wait well. Prompted by that song, I wrote a list of things we can do while we wait for Him:
We can talk to God openly and honestly while we wait (I Thessalonians 5:17).
We can study God’s Word to deepen our understanding of Him while we wait. (Psalm 119:33-37)
We can recognize areas of our heart, soul, and mind that doubt Him while we wait. (Psalm 139:23-24)
We can renew our mind to see Him — as well as ourselves and others — more clearly while we wait. (Romans 12:2)
We can serve Him with our spiritual gifts and God-given talents while we wait. (John 12:26)
We can invest our time and energy in loving other people in big and small ways while we wait. (Matthew 22:29)
We can offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, living for God in every area of life, as we wait. (Romans 12:1)
We can grow in Christlikeness as we wait. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Waiting is hard! But God has a plan for us, even in waiting. We can fight against His plan or we can join Him and find far more life as we wait. When we join Him, we discover His timing and plan was worth waiting for!
For what have you had to wait? What are you waiting for now?
What negative things have you experienced by not waiting well?
Which translation of Proverbs 4:23 is most meaningful to you? Post it somewhere you will see it often; even better, memorize it!
How has God changed your desires as you waited?
What will you do as you wait today?
Embrace far more life right where you are!